Do the Right Thing  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. It is also notably the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence, Christa Rivers, and Rosie Perez.

The film was a box office success - $37.3 million on a $6.5 million budget - and it received numerous accolades and awards, including the Golden Globe Award to Lee for Best Original Screenplay. This film has also grown in stature over time, and in 1999 it was deemed to be "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress, and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, one of just five films to have this honor in their first year of eligibility.


Mookie (Spike Lee) is a young man living in a black and Puerto Rican neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his sister, Jade (Joie Lee, Lee's real life sister), and works as a pizza delivery man for a local pizzeria. Salvatore "Sal" Frangione (Danny Aiello), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has owned it for twenty-five years. His older son, Giuseppe, better known as Pino (John Turturro), "detests the place like a sickness" and holds racial contempt for the neighborhood blacks. Sal's younger son, Vito (Richard Edson), is friends with Mookie, who is black, which Pino feels undermines their fraternal bond.

The street corner is filled with distinct personalities, most of whom are just trying to find a way to deal with the intense heat and go about their regular day-to-day activities. A philandering drunk called Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) is constantly trying to win both the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee). A young man named Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) lives for nothing else but to blast Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" on his boombox wherever he goes. He wears a "love" and "hate" four-fingered ring on either hand which he explains in one scene to symbolize the struggle between the two forces. A mentally disabled man named Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) constantly meanders about the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The local radio disc jockey, "Mister Señor Love Daddy" (Samuel L. Jackson) rounds out the neighborhood.

Upon entering Sal's shop, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) questions Sal about the "Wall of Fame" and demands he place some pictures of black celebrities (or as he puts it, "brothers") on the wall, since, he explains, Sal's pizzeria is situated in a black neighborhood and sells pizza to black people. Sal replies that it is his store; he is proud of his Italian heritage and he doesn't have to feature anyone but Italians on his wall. Buggin' Out attempts to start a protest over the "Wall of Fame", but no one will support his protest except Radio Raheem, who earlier got into an argument with Sal about playing his boombox loudly in the store.

That night, as the shop is closing, Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out march into Sal's and demand that Sal change the pictures on the wall. Radio Raheem's boombox is blaring at the highest volume causing Sal to yell and demand that they turn the radio down or leave the shop, but the two men refuse to do. Finally, Sal snaps and destroys Radio Raheem's boombox with a baseball bat. This causes Radio Raheem to become enraged, attacking Sal. A fight ensues along with a crowd of spectators. The policemen arrive at the scene and begin to apprehend Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out. Buggin' Out is arrested while Radio Raheem is placed in a chokehold by one officer, killing him.

Afterwards, the large crowd of onlookers are enraged about Radio Raheem's death. A tense moment ensues when the crowd contemplates violence against Sal, Vito, and Pino. Deciding that the floodgates are going to burst open eventually, Mookie grabs a trash can and throws it through the window of Sal's restaurant, directing the collective anger towards the property and away from the owners. The angry crowd becomes a riotous mob, rushes into the restaurant, and destroys everything within, while Smiley sets the restaurant on fire. From there, the mob begins to head for the Korean market. Sunny, the owner, tries to fight them off with a broom, yelling that he is one of them: "I no white! I black! You, me, same! We same!" causing the mob to spare his store. Firefighters arrive and begin spraying Sal's building as the crowd is held back by riot patrol. The firefighters, after several warnings to the crowd, turn their hoses on the mob, further enraging them. Meanwhile, Smiley wanders back into the smoldering restaurant and hangs a picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. on what's left of Sal's "Wall of Fame".

The next day, Mookie returns to Sal and demands his weekly pay he had earlier been demanding to receive early, which he gets and he and Sal cautiously reconcile. The film ends with two quotations: The first, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances. The second, from Malcolm X, argues that violence is not violence, but "intelligence" when it is self-defense.

Cast of characters

Major characters
  • Spike Lee as Mookie - a young black man working in Sal's Famous Pizza
  • Danny Aiello as Sal - A surly Italian man who owns the pizzeria
  • Ossie Davis as Da Mayor - an older black man who some call the town drunk
  • Ruby Dee as Mother Sister - an older black woman who observes the neighborhood goings-ons from the window of her brownstone and despises Da Mayor
  • Richard Edson as Vito - One of Sal's sons and a friend of Mookie's
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin' Out - an excitable friend of Mookie's who "wants some brothers" on Sal's wall of fame
  • Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem - a towering young black man who always carries around a huge boom box blasting only Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"
  • John Turturro as Pino - another one of Sal's sons. He is not happy about being one of the last Italians in the neighborhood, nor about his brother's interracial friendship
  • Rosie Perez as Tina - Mookie's girlfriend
Supporting characters

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Do the Right Thing" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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